A Losing Battle

I went to yoga this morning. What I wanted to do was slash my belly but yoga it was. It was hard work. I thought it’d be chilled but no. Intense. Anyway signed up to go back next week.

Then I went to see my GP. Poor guy was running an hour and a half late. He always does to be fair so I came prepared with activities. Didn’t matter though. I couldn’t take being in the waiting room with all those people, knowing that I am a waste of the doctors time. I went back in, waited some more and sketched a picture of my daughter.

Looks creepy but it isn’t finished!


This was a better idea than giving in to the urge I had to rip the fire extinguisher off the wall and spray CO2 everywhere.

By the time I went in I was jittering, gabbling, edgy. I was embarrassed at the same time as I could see how off my behaviour was but couldn’t stop. He did the required pre-quetiapine health checks. He said the cut on my wrist looked sore. I said it was fine. He asked if I’d done that because of being distressed so I said yes. Inside I was ashamed at what a pathetic cut it is. I should have done more. I want to do more. Anyway there isn’t anything else he can do for me. I’ll try not to think about that.

I went to see my neighbour when I got home so I couldn’t hurt myself badly. 

Then Nora rang me because I’d left a message for her. She was supportive and said I may be experiencing something called extinction. Basically as a new positive behaviour is implemented the old negative behaviour kicks up a fuss and refuses to die. 

Die.

This voice inside of me keeps shouting all these awful things for me to do: to cut myself, to overdose, to go to the train tracks, to make a noose. I’m so stuck. I’m fighting with myself. I hate it. I can’t win if I’m fighting myself. It’s impossible.

I can’t even explain it. Nora said that could be because my distress goes all the way back to being so little I was pre-verbal. I just want to pull my hair out and scream in pain. 

Husband will be home soon. Then the in laws. Everyone expects me to be better because I was doing so much better but now?

I’m done. I just need my brain to rationalise the next step and then I can take it and end this nightmare.

Here’s what I wrote in the waiting room if you’re interested. No, no one is.


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White Flag

I want to give in. I surrender. Dear mental illness/disorder/flaw or whatever the fuck you are, I submit. Well, I want to but I’m so goddamn stubborn that I just can’t.

I want to give in and accept the things I believe:

  • I am a flaw in the Universe. As long as I am alive the balance in the world will tip towards bad.
  • To keep my children and family safe I must harm myself to redress the balance.
  • All good things I experience must be punished.
  • At my core an evil side of personality exists. I can only kill this evil by killing myself. The evil is destroying me from the inside.
  • Whenever I think something good then something bad will happen to make sure I stay in my place. I must not get ideas above my station.
  • Everyone leaves. This is because being away from me is the right thing. When people get close things happen to remove those people from my life. Fortunately they are usually good things for the person (they get rewarded for leaving me) but I get so scared that the Universe will take them in a bad way and it is so much safer for people to stay away. It’s my fate and I accept that. I do not blame them.

That’s better. Let it all out. The things I believe that govern my life. My secrets. The beliefs that aren’t delusions because I know they aren’t true except I’m not so sure they aren’t true but I know that saying they are untrue is the correct. It feels glorious to be able to verbalise these feelings. Marvellous. 

And if I really let go I could harm myself with no care for the consequences. How amazing! I could cut, burn, and sand my skin. I could ingest alcohol and pills. On a lesser scale I could just tuck myself up in bed and fluctuate between crying, tearing at my skin and being comatose. Sigh. A girl can dream. I can’t do that though because of ‘The Contradction’.

The Contradiction is that I need to be harmed to keep the kids safe but the behaviour in the paragraph above would actually cause harm to my children so I find myself stuck in this very narrow gap: needing to harm myself in a very contained way. It is exhausting.

So I would dearly love to submit; to wave the white flag; I give up. Let’s just do this illness thing. BUT I am stubborn. Or oppositional. Or wilful. Oppositional and wilful are the preferred terms by the therapists but it all boils down to one thing: Dear illness, I will fight you. 

Scared

I keep trying to ignore how suicidal I feel. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do. I absolutely 100% know I don’t want to die and yet there is this constant internal monologue telling me that I do. But I don’t. 

I fell asleep with dangerous ideas buzzing. I am so disgusting that sanding the skin off my arm seemed like a perfectly reasonable idea. I woke up in the early hours after upsetting dreams: me slicing through my arms with a knife but unable to control it; my parents hunting me in a library whilst my body lost control, desperate to injure itself. When I sat in the dark I wanted to cut my own throat…just a test…not to do anything. I sat there scared. Really fucking scared. 

When I properly got up this morning I had a plan for the day and I stuck to it. 

I took the bus to town…and closed my eyes as we drove over the bridge I imagine jumping off of.

I walked past the pharmacy I wanted to go into…because I was too scared about what I would buy if I went in.

I waited at the kerb as a truck rumbled past…and imagined myself falling under it.

It’s like this all the time at the minute. I’m terrified. Nora reassured me yesterday that I was handling these urges well. In summer I couldn’t stop myself but now I was taking control and staying safe.

But, but, but…help? How much longer can I stay safe. I’m petrified. It’s only going to take one thing and the fuck it switch will be flicked. Please please please, I do not want anything bad to happen. Please.

It’s down to me though. I am a responsible adult and, as such, I must take responsibility for my own actions. I understand that, I do, but I’m just so very frightened and, as usual, no one believes me. 

Want to die. Not really.

Ok, compromise: I want to overdose again. Really.

I hate this feeling. These urges to do something so awful. My mind is tumbling trying to figure out which DBT strategy to use but I can’t think as I’m in sole charge of the children today. Well, that does at least provide distraction. Even although I know I will never self harm or OD again when the kids are at home I still think about it. I think about it a lot. It is more than a thought. It is an urge.

Thoughts-emotions-urges-actions.

That’s the sequence I’ve been taught. So maybe I need to isolate the emotion and then try to resolve that?

That sounds like a lot of work.

I can’t think straight. I find a part of me starting to make dangerous plans for Monday. The other part of me argues back with the hundred reasons of why that’s a bad idea.

Fuck fuck fuckity fuck.

As always I dream of someone wanting to be here for me, to sit with me, to hug me tight as I cry and they’d listen and say all the right things and it’d be perfect. I’d be accepted and understood and loved. Yup, a dream. I need to stop torturing myself with this. There is no one. 

I have people, really wonderful kind and compassionate people, in my life but I’m missing my white knight. Andy is close, really really close but he doesn’t understand emotions and if it weren’t for that then he actually would be that person. He’s definitely saved me. I know that and appreciate it. 

Despite the fuzzy plans forming I don’t think that I will overdose. I see it as very unlikely. However it’s going to be a real, painful effort to stay safe. And who’s going to help? Who would I tell? No one. 

When the kids are in bed I’ll head to bed too. I’ll get out my DBT stuff and try to figure all this crap out. Right now I don’t think I’ll ever beat this. Not like this. Not without that someone but as I know they’re not coming then I’d best crack on. 

I hate my personality disorder. Or maybe this is just me. In which case I hate me. 

It’s Back

She’s back. The bad. I’m going to fight her. I wish someone from the outside could jump into my head and help me fight her.

I’m seeing Monica today. She’ll tell me not to fight the bad. Just acknowledge it, to find a…synthesis (her favourite word. I hate it used in this context. As an organic chemist synthesis means something different to me). I may ask to sit on the floor. I dislike chairs. I have always preferred the floor. I forget this is strange and have certainly caused a few double takes over the years as colleagues would discover me happily working away on the floor. 

I’m not making any effort though. I shall throw on clothes and there will be no shower. I hate how she leads me up the stairs. When I arrive at the personality disorder clinic I’ll say hello to the receptionist, she knows us all. Then I’ll sit in the teeny waiting area reading the same posters about being trans or having my say on mental health or taking part in a smoking cessation study. Monica will come through the locked door and I’ll jump up with a bright smile and a hello. I hate that I do this as I am fully aware that in about 5 mins this woman will basically rip my emotional insides out. Still, social formalities must be observed…or…?

Then she leads me to the stairs. I always pause momentarily at the bottom. It’s so fleeting I doubt she notices as she leads me up them. I told her once that the stairs reminded me of something but I couldn’t think what. Then the next week I told her I thought the stairs reminded me of a school that I used to work in. Now that some more memories have come back I know that it is not the school that I remember. It is the rape. These stairs…there’s something about them that is just like those stairs. Anyway it always goes this way: Monica reaches the top and she will wait and then turn. My steps will have slowed, I’ll be dragging my feet and have reached about 3/4 of the way. My palms will be sweaty and my heart will be fluttering. This is where I fell on the rape stairs and he stopped at the top, just as she does, as he turned back and looked at me, just as she does. Every time I wonder what she would do if I lay down on the stairs there. Bizarrely I sometimes wish I was crazy enough to try it and find out. I’m not though. I’ll force my feet forward and wonder which therapy room we’ll go into today. I always like to nosey into the therapists offices as we pass. It’s a good dialectic. Their offices are normal working spaces filled with drawings from their kids, the usual personal desk clutter and normal work chatter. Compare that to where I’m at as I stand there. It’s like two different worlds but in the same place. Is that a synthesis? I don’t know. It’s a good dialectic though.

So the bad in my head? It’s train tracks again. I couldn’t sleep for ages last night as I kept imagining just lying down on the tracks and waiting. This morning it was the first thought. The image evolved. I thought about what I’d wear, how would I make myself comfortable in those final hours? What pills would I take to stop the fear from making me get up? I imagined how my body would be split. I thought about the emergency service personnel who’d have to pick it…me…up. I thought about the fact my coffin would have to be closed and the kids wouldn’t ever get to see me one last time. The sadness. Jesus. I could never do that to them.

So I feel like I’m some sick twisted fuck. How can I have such thoughts? Such fantasies?! It is sick. Then that judgement reinforces the bad. Well, I know I shouldn’t judge the thought, just accept it. It’s hard not to judge the image of my corpse physically destroyed and my children completely shattered. I don’t think I could ever accept that. Surely it’s unacceptable?

Ah but! I still have my little light. It won’t go out. I won’t let it ūüĆü

Because the Universe Will Take Her Away

I’ve made progress. Even I can see that. I am no longer suicidal. Previously I knew that I had to stay alive as a duty to my children. Now I want to stay alive. It feels very different. I still get the daily thoughts repeating ‘I want to die I want to die I want to die’ over and over but they are less powerful; noises instead of compulsions.

Yesterday I cut my forearm. It was an experiment just to see a little bit what slitting my wrist would feel like. Not to die. Just curiosity. I also had to do it. I owe it to the Universe because I’m getting better…so for reasons I can’t explain as there’s no sense in it, I cut my arm. By last night I had decided: I am done with self harm. Done. I’ve done it. I’ve kept up my side of the deal and now I want to say enough. There are better ways forward. 

In fact I was going to get Nora to participate when I ceremoniously dumped my knives in the bin today. A bit pompous, I know, but fuck it. Anyway I didn’t get Nora to help because I didn’t dump the knives because she didn’t ask about self harm. Instead we talked about how much better I am because I really, really am. Isn’t it great? It is. I mean there’s work to be done but I am a lot better. Which is good because…

…Nora quit.

Well, ok, that’s me being over dramatic. She hasn’t quit. She is retiring and rightfully so. I wasn’t surprised when she told me. I had always known that she would be taken. Obviously she was going to withdraw from my care at some point (in the very near future actually) but I suspected it’d be more than that. So no surprise here. I’m actually happy for her. I completely understand her decision and am pleased that she is being taken in a good way, moving on to better things. That’s much better than some of the alternatives. 

But yes of course she was going to be taken. I know it sounds stupid. No one ever understands. Look, the good is always taken away. Andy and the kids being the exception to the rule I hope. Although I do get mad anxious when the 3 of them are out in the car. Please don’t take them. Anyway there are 3 hcp that I rate: Nora, Monica and Dr H. I knew that couldn’t continue. I just hope the other 2 are ok. I worry poor Dr H will just have a massive heart attack or something. 

Now I’ve typed this out I see how twisted my thinking is. I just feel like this because I’m a person disordered. Wise mind is keeping quiet again. Cheers mate. You wanna consider speaking up every now and then?

My brain has been very busy and I wish I knew what that sneaky little bastard was up to. Well, I am still making progress and that’s good. One day I might even think it’s ok that I exist. One day. 

I’m actually embarrassed by how crazy this post is. Embarrassed. Posting it anyway in the name of honesty/stupidity.

The Quetiapine Question 

I’m not ok. I keep trying and trying to be ok but I’m failing. I’m not ok. I rang the DBT support line yesterday and spoke to Monica. I told her I was “shit scared” because of urges to cut my own throat, or slit my arm lengthways or, quite bizarrely, to cut a very basic skeleton outline on to my body. I’m not ok. We’re getting that aren’t we? There’s no way round it: those thoughts are distressing. And they persist. All the time. All the time. All. The. Fucking. Time.

Monica was really helpful and by the end of the call I felt that I had the control, not the thoughts. I felt peaceful when I went to sleep last night. I had hoped I had turned a corner.

I hadn’t.

Another night of vivid nightmarish dreams filled with people from my past. I woke up with that dread – you know the dread when you have a full day, filled with minutes, ahead of you? Yeah, that one. I had my daughter today so was really determined to be the best mum I could be (accepting my current limitations).  In truth there were two points in the day when I did think positively about myself and thought hey, you know, I am quite good at parenting. Ugh. Having a positive thought just causes the negatives to pile on and kick me harder. Die positive die. 

So, is it time for the quetiapine I wonder? The quetiapine question. It was first suggested by the psychiatrist back in July; five shitty months ago. Then when I saw him again a couple of months ago we discussed quetiapine and the side effects. Sorry, that should say god-awful side effects. Nora’s mentioned it a few times since, particularly when I see things or have the whole believing I can fly thing. I spoke to the GP, Dr H about it too. Without telling me to go on it he did describe a lot of the potential positives. So why not take it? Why not indeed.

The weight gain. 

That’s it really. Like all psychiatric meds it has a huge list of potential side effects but there is one thing that is universally acknowledged about quetiapine and that is weight gain. Sigh. I’ve lost 10kgs. It’s not been easy and I have more to lose. A magic pill that will put it all back on? I’d have to be mad to take it. I am mad though. Mad enough to be scared of cutting my own throat. What is a girl to do?

The scientist in me knows that the only way to know what quetiapine will do to me is to take it. To experiment. I’m so scared. You know once upon a time when I was a ‘proper’ chemist I worked for the company that discovered quetiapine. I sat in many a meeting where it’s sale projections were presented. Licensed for schizophrenia the drug was having greater success than initially anticipated. As such it was being investigated for other uses. Things like major depressive disorder. People like me. It’s that line again – the line between the normal observer and the mad patient. The them and us line. The line I’ve crossed. Well, that’s depressing but in reality there isn’t a line is there? That’s just my black and white thinking again I suppose.

So the quetiapine question rumbles on. So much to gain; in every sense. I feel defeated that I’m having to consider this med on top of the venlafaxine, the propranolol, the promethazine, and the lorazepam. How the fuck did this happen?! And I’m using DBT skills as best I can. What will it take?! What?! Someone tell me please! 

I just want to give up but I can’t. Can’t. Won’t. There is no question about that. 

Through

There’s a quote I often think of:

“When you’re going through hell, keep going”.

Apparently Churchill said it. Through hell. Through. I like it as it acknowledges that the current place is hell, but, each step brings you closer to leaving hell behind; that hell can be escaped from but it’s going to be hard work. So if we can summon the strength to keep going then the flames will not consume us. We will not let them. 

The other story I’ve been thinking about is We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury. In the children’s tale a family go on a bear hunt and on their quest they encounter various obstacles. As they reach each obstacle the conclusion is the same:

“We can’t go over it.

  We can’t go under it.

           Oh no!

  We’ve got to go through it!”

‘Ain’t that the truth? That seems like the only way to leave the past behind. I can’t go over it, I can’t go under it. Oh no. I’ve got to go through it. That’s not good news is it? The only way out is through. Through DBT, through nightmares and flashbacks, through medication, through excruciating examination of my thoughts and actions. But what if I don’t make it? What if I fall and flounder and stay stuck in hell? Well, I’d have to die. I couldn’t live like this forever. As a I write this my vision is disturbed by strange sort of bright pulses. I feel sick. The creeping sensation covers my neck as if invisible ghostly hands are touching me. 

Speaking of living, there’s a song lyric that gets stuck in my head. 

“If you live through this with me, I swear that, I will die for you”

The song is called Asking For It by Hole, Courtney Love’s grunge band whom I did go and see live back in 1994. This lyric resonates with me as it feels like my two selves, my two minds trying to barter a deal. Like Reasonable Mind is trying to implore Emotional Mind to perhaps lay off the suicide stuff. Let me live and, when the time is right, I will die. I agree to that. The person I think of when I hear this song is my 14 year old self. The person who had to Live Through This. (Not surprising really as I was 14 in 1994!) Unfortunately she’s been calling in her debt and thinks that having lived through this it’s the time to ‘die for you’ bit. She’s wrong though. This isn’t the time to die. This is the time to live, or to try. At least to try. To keep going. There can be a good life I think. I’ve just got to go through this. Not under or over or roundabout. Through. 

I really hope there’s something good on the other side because this journey is hell. I hope it’s not a sodding bear! 

What is ‘Better’?

I’m wondering what ‘getting better’ actually means. I don’t believe that everyone else is walking around not hating themselves. I just can’t. Everyone hates themselves don’t they?

And isn’t everyone depressed? I know loads of people either taking, or have taken, antidepressants. So, with that in mind, isn’t being depressed just normal…to an extent anyway?

I don’t think I’ve met another parent who isn’t tired so that’s not an illness thing either.

Then there’s binge eating as self-harm…well, last time I checked we were heading for an obesity crisis (too dramatic?) so that must mean a lot of people are self-harming with food.

Then there’s the alcohol. Again, getting absolutely hammered seems to be a societal norm. 

Mention insomnia to anyone and they’ll tell you about their insomnia. And it’s probably worse than mine too. Insomnia appears to be as widespread as sneezes in winter. 

All of these things really confuse me because when I’m better how will I know? I could still be a medicated, boozing insomniac and that’d be…ok? I’d still be better? I suppose so because it seems like that’s what’s normal now. 

Then I think: why put myself through all this medication and therapy crap? Why not just accept that what I’m experiencing is just life? It’s tempting. I try it every once in a while – the fake it til you become it thing. I’m just no good at it though. I end up wanting to kill my self and crying and generally not very functioning. So how come? How can everyone else be walking around feeling like shit but I’m not achieving it? I genuinely don’t get it. Is it laziness? Perhaps. 

I’m not sure anyone really wants me much better than I am currently anyway. I mean I’m not causing trouble particularly. I seem to have grasped the whole not-killing-myself thing (although I often get annoyed about the demands of others that I stay alive. Seems a bit selfish to me. Just saying.) I’m doing a fairly passable job at the mothering. House is cleaner than it’s ever been. So what if I never work again? Lots of people don’t work. Obviously there’s the crushing loneliness but that again seems to be a modern epidemic.

So I don’t really know what I’m aiming for. What is getting better? Is it worth it? The thought of the whole thing is decidedly terrifying. I’ll just sit under my duvet cuddling my toy rabbit – just like everyone else.

DBT#4: Yeah, OK, Whatever 

I drove to DBT today, too exhausted to cycle. Too exhausted to shower in fact; I’ve not done that in a few days. Don’t care. I did, however, make the effort to be early as Monica had told me that one of my group facilitators would speak to me beforehand about dealing with the accent thing from last session. I’ve been sick with nerves about this all week. I even practiced a little speech in my head about how I was going to explain why mimicking my accent is so upsetting to me.

I needn’t have fucking bothered.

Nothing was said. 

No, instead Sally blathered on about the group should be a safe place where everyone feels they can speak. Did anyone want to add anything? I just couldn’t speak up out of nowhere and say “hey, you know when you put on my accent it really upsets me?” I just couldn’t. And because I said nothing the lady did it again: she did my fucking accent again. I actually asked how to pronounce her name, it’s unusual and I wanted to get it right. So she told me whilst imitating my accent and saying “I don’t know how you’ll say it in your language”. What?! My language – English?! Anyway I just accepted that I was going to have to shrug it off. Fuck it.

I spent the whole of the first session staring at the bubbles in my bottle of sparkling water. Just look at the bubbles. Nothing else matters, only the bubbles. It was homework feedback and I just kept on staring, mouth firmly closed shut. I will not speak I vowed. Eventually though I was asked about my homework – had I done it? I nodded now staring at the desk. I began to speak slowly, trying to choose the words carefully. “I did the STOP skill thing. I spoke to my dad. That was a big deal. My low got worse. On Monday I was sat on the sofa and I could feel my usual cycle of behaviour beginning. I couldn’t self-harm because I get in trouble here for doing that. Well, the feelings don’t pass so I knew that I’d have to do something and that’s when I come up with plans – not to kill myself, no. Just to hurt myself in a way that might cause me to die by accident”. I looked up from the desk. I certainly had everyone’s attention. I got this feeling that I had kind of nailed it, that the others in the group knew what I meant although no one had been quite so frank about it. That’s my style – blunt. Holding Sally’s gaze I continued “so I used STOP and instead of making dangerous plans I proceeded mindfully and tried to distract myself. I cleaned and it worked until I stopped. Then all of this came back”. Ah fuck she looks worried. Best reassure her I thought “I have not made any dangerous plans”. I felt her relief. A bit more chat and we moved on. Then it was break.

I made some pretty inappropriate suicide jokes at break. The people I was speaking to seemed to like them, they were cracking up. I apologised for my dark sense of humour and hoped it wasn’t triggering for anyone. 

Back in and we learned of TIP skills. I’d already done of all this months ago with Nora. I didn’t want to rain on anyone’s parade so I tried to look interested. Inside I was thinking yeah, ok, whatever. Some people were quite enthused about TIP skills and felt they would be helpful to them. I hope they are. When I’ve tried TIP skills they haven’t done anything for me particularly. I stay just as deranged and obsessed with whatever crazy life threatening scheme I’ve dreamt up. Sigh. I can’t help but wonder if this DBT is right for me. 

Oh well. Ups and downs. Peaks and troughs. Knives and ice cubes.